Cultural Heritage of Southeast Asia by malaymalay

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									Cultural Heritage of Southeast Asia:
Preservation for World Recognition
By: Dr . A Ghafar Ahmad

I. Introduction

Culture and heritage are often considered as the fundamental aspects underpinning a
country„s national identity and sovereignty. Cultural heritage including historic buildings, sites,
cultures and other invaluable assets are the distinguished elements that encapsulate a nation„s
soul and spirit. The cultural heritage of Malaysia and those of other Southeast Asian (SEA)
countries are unique as they portray the vibrant, largely traditional communities thriving in a
culture of tolerance, peace, diversity and continuity in the midst of modernization and social
change. As items of national pride, cultural resources of many Southeast Asian countries have
been promoted as tourism products to generate income. Abandoned historic buildings for
instance have been restored and adaptive-reused for more lucrative uses including museums,
galleries, restaurants and information kiosks to attract tourists; a common practice found in
many European cities. Following in this footstep, the cultural heritage of Southeast Asia has
been instrumental in the development and promotion of tourism industry in this region. The
cultural heritage of these countries has also earned the distinction of being enlisted in the
UNESCO„s World Heritage List.

This article discusses the concepts of cultural heritage with special references to the Southeast
Asian countries. It also examines the definitions of cultural heritage from the perspectives of
both UNESCO and ASEAN Declarations. Several key issues and challenges confronting the
perpetuity of the multi-cultural heritage of this region are explored in the light of immediate
threats and pressures of rapid urban development. Initiatives undertaken by the respective
governing bodies and the grassroots in the Southeast Asian countries are also highlighted as a
means to safeguard the cultural heritage for the benefits of the future generations.

II. Definitions of Cultural Heritage

As cultures and heritage are irreplaceable, their particular forms and means of tangible and
intangible expressions that constitute the community heritage values should be promoted as
an essential aspect of human development. [1] Culture is defined as the whole complex of
distinct spiritual, intellectual, emotional and material features that characterize a particular
society or social group and its way of life. Culture includes the arts and literatures as well as
lifestyles, value systems, creativity, knowledge systems, traditions and beliefs. [2] Cultural
properties are often shared, learned, symbolic, transmitted across generations, adaptive, and
integrated. On the other hand, heritage refers to “an inheritance or a legacy; things of value
which have been passed from one generation to the next”. [3] A wider definition of heritage
encompasses the traditional notions of heritage as cultures, places and buildings as well as
archives and records, and the impact of technology. Heritage, which relates to the remains of
the past should be well preserved as national treasures and be cherished to posterity.

The concept of cultural heritage invariably differs from one nation or region to another. In a
broad sense, it is perceived as movable and immovable assets of artistic, literary,
architectural, historical, archaeological, ethnological, scientific or technological values that
embody the essence of a nation. [4] Recognizing the significance of cultural heritage and
developing the relevant general criteria provide the rationale for subsequent management
decisions pertaining to conservation, preservation, access and the delivery of related
conservation programs.
The United Nations Educational and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) has since promoted
various conventions and other instruments for the conservation of cultural heritage, including
the following: [5]

      Recommendation Concerning International Competitions in Architecture and Town
       Planning (1956);
      Recommendations on International Principles Applicable to Archaeological Excavations
      Recommendations Concerning the Safeguarding of the Beauty and Character of
       Landscapes and Sites (1962);
      Recommendations Concerning the Preservation of Cultural Property Endangered by
       Public or Private Works (1968);
      Recommendations Concerning the Protection at National Level of the Cultural and
       Natural Heritage (1972);
      Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage
       (1972) which introduced the concept of World Heritage Sites;
      Recommendations Concerning the Safeguarding and Contemporary Role of Historic
       Areas (1976).

Specifically, the UNESCO„s Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and
Natural Heritage (1972) has defined cultural heritage by the following classifications: [6]

      Monuments: architectural works, works of monumental sculpture and painting,
       elements or structures of an archaeological nature, inscriptions, cave dwellings and
       combinations of features, which are of outstanding universal value from the point of
       view of history, art or science;
      Groups of buildings: groups of separate or connected buildings which, because of
       their architecture, their homogeneity or their place in the landscape, are of
       outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science;
      Sites: works of man or the combined works of nature and of man, and areas including
       archaeological sites which are of outstanding universal value from the historical,
       aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological points of view.

Meanwhile, an International Charter for the Conservation of Monuments (or The Venice
Charter) adopted by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) in 1956
marked an important milestone for the conservation movement. [7] The Venice Charter
emphasizes the importance of respect for original building fabric, precise documentation of
intervention, the significance of contributions from all periods to the building character, and
the maintenance of historic buildings. Other standards, charters, recommendations and
conventions had followed suit in the interest of protecting and enhancing the historic and
cultural environment. Some of the more outstanding documents include:

      The Burra Charter, the Australian ICOMOS Charter for the Conservation of Places of
       Cultural Significance (1981) which introduced the concept of cultural significance
       relating to the aesthetic, historic, scientific or social value for past, present and future
      Charter for the Conservation of Places of Cultural Heritage Value (ICOMOS New
       Zealand, 1992);
      Preservation Charter for the Historic Towns and Areas of the United States of America
       (US ICOMOS, 1992); and
      Guidelines for Education and Training in the Conservation of Monuments, Ensembles
       and Sites (1993).

Closer to home, ASEAN [8] member countries through the ASEAN Declaration on Cultural
Heritage outlined in July 2000 in Bangkok, Thailand have provided a definition of cultural
heritage in a regional context. They have recognized cultural heritage as being inclusive of the
following connotations: [9]

       significant cultural values and concepts;
       structures and artifacts: dwellings, buildings for worship, utility structures, works of
        visual arts, tools and implements, that are of a historical, aesthetic, or scientific
       sites and human habitats: human creations or combined human creations and
        nature, archaeological sites and sites of living human communities that are of
        outstanding value from a historical, aesthetic, anthropological or ecological viewpoint,
        or, because of its natural features, of considerable importance as habitat for the
        cultural survival and identity of particular living traditions;
       oral or folk heritage: folkways, folklore, languages and literature, traditional arts
        and crafts, architecture, and the performing arts, games, indigenous knowledge
        systems and practices, myths, customs and beliefs, rituals and other living traditions;
       the written heritage;
       popular cultural heritage: popular creativity in mass cultures (i.e. industrial or
        commercial cultures), popular forms of expression of outstanding aesthetic,
        anthropological and sociological values, including the music, dance, graphic arts,
        fashion, games and sports, industrial design, cinema, television, music video, video
        arts and cyber art in technologically-oriented and urbanized communities.

The ASEAN Declaration was underlined by a mutual understanding that cultural traditions were
integral to the preservation of ASEAN intangible heritage, so much so that their conservation,
documentation and promotion rendered a high priority. Cultural discourse and awareness
would further enhance an inter-cultural appreciation of ASEAN cultural heritage for sustaining
regional peace and harmony. The protection of ASEAN cultural heritage, including curbing illicit
trade and trafficking would require a concerted effort among member countries supported by
the international community.

III. Southeast Asian Cultural Properties Inscribed on the World Heritage List

Based on the current working definitions and interpretations of cultural heritage, it is
noteworthy that most Southeast Asian countries fit well within this framework as they possess
immense historical, architectural, archeological and cultural values that are timeless and
treasured by all, especially the tourists. The cultural heritage of several countries in this region
have been inscribed on the UNESCO„s World Heritage List (WHL) to represent an outstanding
universal value as well as a masterpiece of human creativity. A total of 14 cultural properties
in Southeast Asia have been listed in the WHL by January 2001. They are located in 6
countries including Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Lao People„s Democratic Republic,
Thailand and Vietnam (refer to Table 1). The following section describes the respective cultural
properties in turn: [10]

3.1 Angkor, Cambodia

Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. Stretching over
400 square km, including a forested area, the Angkor Archaeological Park contains the
magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire dating from the 9th to 15th
century. They include the famous Temple of Angkor Wat and the Bayan Temple at Angkor
Thom with its countless sculptural decorations.

3.2 Borobudur Temple Compounds, Indonesia

This famous Buddhist temple, dating from the 8th and 9th centuries, is located in central Java.
It was built in three tiers; namely a pyramidal base with five concentric square terraces; the
trunk of a cone with three circular platforms; and at the top, a monumental stupa. The walls
and balustrades are decorated with fine low reliefs, covering a total surface area of 2,500
square meters. Around the circular platforms are 72 openwork stupas, each containing a
statue of the Buddha. The monument was restored with assistance from the UNESCO in the

Table 1: Southeast Asian cultural properties inscribed on the UNESCO‘s World
Heritage List by January 2001

No.    Southeast Asian                   Cultural Properties                    Year of
          Countries                                                           Inscription
 1     Brunei              -                                                       -

 2     Cambodia            a. Angkor                                             1992
 3     Indonesia           a. Borobudur Temple Compounds                         1991

                           b. Prambanan Temple Compounds                         1991

                           c. Sangiran Early Man Site                            1996
 4     Laos PDR            a. Town of Luang Prabang                              1995

 5     Malaysia            -                                                       -
 6     Myanmar             -                                                       -

 7     Philippines         a. Baroque Churches of the Philippines                1993

                           b. Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras        1995

                           c. Historic Town of Vigan


 8     Singapore           -                                                       -
 9     Thailand            a. Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated          1991
                           Historic Towns

                           b. Historic City of Ayutthaya and Associated
                           Historic Towns                                        1991

                           c. Ban Chiang Archaeological Site


 10    Vietnam             a. Complex of Hue Monuments                           1993

                           b. Hoi An Ancient Town                                1999

                           c. My Son Sanctuary                                   1999
                       Source: UNESCO World Heritage Centre, 2001

3.3 Prambanan Temple Compound, Indonesia
Built in the 10th century, Prambanan is the largest temple compound built in Indonesia. Rising
above the centre of the last of these concentric squares are three temples decorated with
reliefs illustrating the epic of the Ramayana. These temples were dedicated to the three great
Hindu divinities (Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma) while three other temples were dedicated to the
animals that served them.

3.4 Sangiran Early Man Site, Indonesia

Excavation works conducted from 1936 to 1941 led to the discovery of the first hominid fossils
at this site. Some 50 fossils of the Meganthropus palaeo and Pithecanthropus erectus/Homo
erectus were found, constituting half of all known hominid fossils worldwide. Inhabited for the
past one and a half million years, Sangiran is one of the key sites for the study of human

3.5 Town of Luang Prabang, Lao People‘s Democratic Republic

Luang Prabang is an outstanding example of the fusions of traditional architecture and Lao
urban structures with those built by the European colonial authorities in the 19th and 20th
centuries. Its unique, remarkably well-preserved townscape illustrates a key stage in the
blending of these two distinct cultural traditions.

3.6 Baroque Churches of the Philippines , Philippines

These four churches, the first of which was built by the Spanish in the late 16th century, are
located in Manila, Santa Maria, Paoay and Miag-ao, respectively. Their unique architectural
styles are a reminiscent of the European Baroque, loosely reinterpreted by the local Chinese
and Philippine craftsmen.

3.7 Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, Philippines

For 2.000 years, the high rice fields of the Ifugao in the Philippines have been planted with
respect to the contours of the mountains. The fruits of knowledge were handed down from one
generation to the next, while expressions of sacred traditions and the delicate social balance
were articulated. The community has carved a landscape of profound beauty that expresses
simple harmony between mankind and the environment.

3.8 Historic Town of Vigan, Philippines

Established in the 16th century, Vigan is the best-preserved example of a planned Spanish
colonial town in Asia. Its architecture reflects the coming together of diverse cultural elements
from the Philippines, China and Europe, resulting in a rare culture and townscape that have no
parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia.

3.9 Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns, Thailand

Sukhothai was the capital of the first Kingdom of Siam in the 13th and 14th centuries. It boats
several fine monuments that marked the beginnings of Thai architecture. The great civilization
of the Sukhothai Kingdom absorbed many influences and ancient local traditions; the rapid
assimilation of all these elements is known as the „Sukhothai style„.

3.10 Historic City of Ayutthaya and Associated Historic Towns, Thailand

Founded c. 1350, Ayutthaya became the second Siamese capital after Sukhothai. It was
destroyed by the Burmese in the 18th century. Its remains, characterized by the prang
(reliquary towers) and gigantic monasteries, illustrate the grandeur of its past splendour.
3.11 Ban Chiang Archaeological Site , Thailand

Ban Chiang is considered as the most important prehistoric settlement so far discovered in
Southeast Asia. It marks an important stage in human cultural, social and technological
evolutions. The site presents the earliest evidence of farming in the region as well as
manufacturing and the use of metals.

3.12 Complex of Hue Monuments, Vietnam

Established as the capital of unified Viet Nam in 1802, Hue was not only the political but also
the cultural and religious centers under the Nguyen dynasty until 1945. The Perfume River
winds its way through the Capital City, the Imperial City, the Forbidden Purple City and the
Inner City, giving this rare feudal capital an ambience of magnificent natural beauty.

3.13 Hoi An Ancient Town , Vietnam

Hoi An Ancient Town is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading
port dating from the 15th to 19th century. Its buildings and street plan reflect both indigenous
and foreign influences, combined to produce this unique heritage setting.

3.14 My Son Sanctuary , Vietnam

Between the 4th and 13th centuries a unique culture that owned its spiritual origins to Indian
Hinduism developed on the coast of contemporary Vietnam . This area is illustrated by the
remains of impressive tower-temples located in a site that was the religious and political
capital of the Kingdom of Champa for most of its existence.

It is clear from the discussion that most Southeast Asian countries possess a vast array of
cultural resources that signify a legacy of great civilizations and value systems. To protect and
promote the integrity of these cultural properties, it is imperative that these countries work
together to establish national and regional inventories, databases and networks of academia,
governments, archives, museums, galleries, art centers, training centers, mass media
agencies and others concerned with cultural heritage and their documentation, conservation
and promotion.

IV. Nomination of Georgetown          for the World Heritage List

Malaysia „s cultural property has yet to make an entry into the UNESCO„s World Heritage List.
Much effort has been geared towards nominating the city of Georgetown, Penang for the
listing. The nomination of Georgetown was based on its outstanding universal values depicting
a fine example of the 18th to 20th century architectural ensemble of European, Malay,
Chinese and India origins. Such architectural fusions illustrate the legacy of multi-culturalism
of the Straits Settlements and the mercantile history of the Straits of Melaka. It also displays
the intact streetscape and the matrix of socio-economic activities existing within the heritage
city contending the course of modernization and social change.

The nomination exercise has witnessed a total of 108 hectares of Georgetown inner city areas
being proposed for conservation for its exceptional universal values. These areas have been
categorized into 5 important zones as follows: [11]

       Cultural precinct: Chulia-Love-Muntri Street ;
       Historic commercial center: Little India and traditional business communities;
       Waterfront business-financial district: Banking, shipping and corporate business;
       Mosque and clan house enclave: Religious buildings, clan houses and small
      Market and shopping precinct: Traditional retail and neighbouring markets.

In August 2002, Georgetown came into the limelight after being listed in the World„s 100 Most
Endangered Site by the World Monuments Watch (WMW) of the World Monuments Fund
(WMF) based in the USA. The reason being the city„s historic buildings were mostly at risk.
The WMF„s List of 100 Most Endangered Sites is issued biennially to identify any historic sites
that face significant peril. Nominations were solicited from various ministries of culture, US
embassies and related international and local preservation bodies. WMW draws attention to
the plight of the world„s most endangered sites and assist in their protection. Following the
exposure, Georgetown had received a grant of US$80,000 from The American Express
Foundation for the preservation of the city„s cultural historic enclaves. [12]

Nonetheless, historic buildings in Georgetown have largely survived the decades amidst rapid
development and urbanization. Some buildings are structurally intact, whilst others are
dilapidated and left abandoned. Till this date, only 11 out of thousands of buildings and
monuments in Penang have been gazetted under the Antiquities Act 1976; a condition that
provides these buildings some protection and encourages their preservation. Initiatives should
be undertaken to gazette more historic monuments and buildings in Georgetown for their
integrity and perpetuity.

V. Cultural Heritage Tourism

Tourism, including the cultural heritage segment, has been identified as one of the key growth
industries over the next decades. International tourism arrival worldwide has been increasing
by about 4.3% per year and that spending has been rising by about 6.7% per year, resulting
in issues of managing tourism growth and sustaining economic development. [13] Cultural
heritage tourism, in particular is fast becoming one of the leading tourism sectors in Southeast
Asia. This region is endowed with vast, ancient cultural heritage that has shaped much of the
lives and value systems of the local populace. The inclusion of 14 Southeast Asia„s cultural
properties in the WHL has showcased unique cultural traditions including traditional human
settlements and prominent architecture that helped boost the region„s heritage tourism
market. In 1999, 19.73 million foreign tourists from world top markets including the USA,
Canada, China, Japan, Holland, France, Austria, Germany, Italy, and the UK had visited the
ASEAN countries. [14] A continuous influx of foreign tourists into this region has increased job
opportunities for the locals in various sectors including accommodation, tour agencies and
guides, handicrafts and restaurants.

Malaysian tourism has also enjoyed an impressive average growth of 9.26% between 1981
and 2000, making tourism the second most important sector of the country„s economy.
Despite the scare of September 11, 2001 over 12.7 million tourists had visited Malaysia in
2001, bringing over US$6.3 billion in revenue, up US$1.8 billion compared to the 2000 figures.
[15] International tourist arrival in Malaysia has also grown significantly. In 2002, Malaysia
recorded a 54% growth in tourist arrival due to intensive promotional blitz worldwide. A recent
research has further revealed that foreign tourists had visited Malaysia mostly for its cultural
and historical uniqueness. [16]

Cultural heritage tourism is unique as it offers the opportunity to portray and experience the
past in the present through an endless possibility of interpretive and presentation techniques.
It allows the local community to define its culture and narrate its own story. Cultural heritage
tourism has several objectives to be achieved within the context of sustainable tourism
development. They include conservation of cultural resources; articulate interpretation of
resources; authentic experiences for visitors; as well as understanding the tourism framework
and the impact on communities and regions. [17] Tourism in Southeast Asia continues to play
an important role in community economic development despite a significant pressure placed
on heritage resources. Issues of urbanization, poverty and lack of funding present a
management challenge for cultural heritage tourism in Southeast Asia.
VI. Issues and Challenges of Cultural Heritage

Strategies aimed at promoting cultural heritage as Southeast Asian„s critical tourism asset
have encountered many obstacles. They include the lack of resources for heritage inventory
and assessment; inadequate regulative frameworks; poor understanding of building materials;
low commitment to maintenance of heritage assets; as well as the paucity of training
initiatives and limited employment opportunities in this sector. Such problems were further
compounded by the realities of globalization with rapid economic development, continuous
urbanization and changing population dynamics. Several key issues and challenges facing the
sustainability of multi-cultural heritage of Southeast Asia are discussed as follows:

6.1 Urbanization and Demographic Trends

The World Population Prospects, The 2000 Revision report has stated that the world population
would reach 6.1 billion by mid-2000 with a growth rate of 1.2% per year; [18] which
translates to an annual addition of 77 million people. Six countries account for nearly 50% of
the annual increase, namely India (21%), China (12%), Pakistan (5%), Nigeria (4%),
Bangladesh (4%), and Indonesia (3%). By the same token, the Southeast Asian population,
generally at relatively younger median age, is estimated to increase significantly over the

Urbanization is a significant trend in cities of the developing world. About 120 million people
across the globe have moved to the cities, mainly for economic gains, and a similar pattern
has been observed in the industrializing countries of Southeast Asia. [19] Greater urbanization
demands high investments in urban infrastructure including housing, transportation, and water
and sewerage services. National authorities are also faced with challenges in environmental
protection to ensure the provision of good air and water quality, as well as overall quality of

Heritage cities typically represent places of lively social life and passionate cultural events. The
urban lifestyle is part and parcel of cultural heritage that should be sustained for future
generations. Nonetheless, factors of urbanization, demographic change, over-consumerism,
changing lifestyles and consumption patterns among city dwellers have imposed a major
turnabout in the way of life in Southeast Asian cities. Many old historic areas in the region are
in danger of being demolished in the name of progress. Research in Georgetown has shown
that many single, young urban professionals had fled the heritage inner city because they
considered life there was rather dull. [20] They had preferred condominium living in the urban
fringes equipped with swimming pools and air-conditioning, rather than staying in shop houses
with air-well ventilation. They had also frequented Starbucks„s coffee more so than the
traditional coffee shops at the corner. Wet market and sundry shops were also losing
customers to upbeat hypermarkets. Consequently, many pre-war historic buildings in
Georgetown under the now defunct Rent Control Act were left abandoned. [21] Such profound
changes in contemporary urban society have affected the pulse and rhythm of the heritage
cities in Southeast Asia .

6.2 Poor Forms of Governance

There is a growing recognition that conservation of cultural heritage is a shared responsibility
among all levels of government, proponents, and the community at large. There has been a
significant shift from simply making an inventory of heritage resources towards an integrated
and holistic approach to heritage management. International experiences have shown that
significant momentum and resources could be generated from interactions between heritage
stakeholders, including those in the public, non-profit and private sectors. [22] Heritage
stakeholders should revitalize their mandates and strengthen their commitment, to include
women and youths to complement conventional approaches to heritage stewardship. Citizens
and heritage communities may well benefit from good heritage networks; many of which have
spawned from the growth of Internet and ICT. However, the situation in many developing
countries, including Southeast Asian is rather dismal. Policies, institutions and infrastructure
for heritage stewardship, both governmental and non-governmental in Thailand, for example
have remained ambiguous and haphazard. [23]

The roles of traditional forms of cultural stewardship such as mosques, churches, temples,
monasteries and the waqf need to be revised so that stakeholders take on the shared
responsibilities of care, conservation, maintenance and usage of heritage buildings and the
surroundings. The governments hence play a pivotal role in recognizing the potentials of
private and public sector enterprises in governing cultural heritage. [24] The issue is to
prioritize heritage conservation as a key element in city development, and to establish a
framework for effective implementation.

6.3 Inappropriate Management Process

There has been a growing recognition of the role of cultural heritage as an engine of urban
renewal and local community development, which may well contribute to an enhanced quality
of life, increased investment and the development of sustainable economic ventures including
tourism. It is critical to integrate cultural heritage conservation within a broader framework of
sustainable development. This holistic approach entails the reuse, redevelopment and
regeneration of cultural heritage assets, as well as their integration into the overall urban
development process. Nonetheless, the task of conserving cultural heritage has remained a
paramount challenge to the governments, the private sector and local communities.

A critical aspect in this approach is to conduct good documentation and preservation of
cultural properties. [25] Publications in a variety of formats include books, reports, brochures,
guides, maps, and audio-visual products should be undertaken to target different users.
Governments need to support research and documentation efforts by universities, research
institutions, trusts and other private commissions involved in heritage conservation. Support
can be in the forms of providing educational courses, personnel training, research activities,
establishing museums and exhibitions.

Another important aspect in cultural heritage conservation is measuring the potential impacts
of cultural heritage tourism development on the local communities. Despite considerable
resource constraints, it is essential for the community to assess their effort in conserving
cultural heritage as well as in improving their quality of life. Supportive measures and actions
should be devised to designate the “cultural zones” within the area, produce integrated master
plans for the area, eliminate inappropriate land-uses, develop design guidelines and urban
streetscape and restore heritage structures. All actions should be carried out through smart
partnership and collaborations between all levels of government and other stakeholders.

6.4 Lack of Funding Resources

For decades cultural heritage conservation has been a low priority for governments throughout
the Southeast Asia region and public sector investment in this domain has fallen far short of
real needs. Most Southeast Asian countries are also faced with the scarcity of funding from
international agencies. Moreover, the pricing structure of cultural heritage-based tourism is
often vague, unlike other services or other forms of tourism. A lack of established benchmark
has resulted in poor guidance in this area. Consequently, related cultural heritage business
and services are at the danger of pricing themselves out of the market, or at times
undercharging. As such, it is essential that local communities secure other forms of creative
financing to increase the capacity and sustainability of their cultural heritage properties.

The challenge at hand is to stimulate, facilitate, strengthen and forge more innovative private
and public sector partnerships to generate resources to champion the cause of cultural
heritage. The World Monuments Fund (WMF) for instance leads the way in building new
alliances to debate on key issues in cultural heritage conservation and to foster new
connections and networking. The WMF has launched a regional network of participation,
appraisal and partnership for heritage in Asia.

6.5 Ineffective Enforcement of Legislations

Establishing an enabling institutional and policy framework goes a long way in creating the
incentives necessary to prioritize cultural heritage conservation. Having effective laws,
legislations, rules and building codes are essential, alongside developing special conservation
plans and zoning controls, and integrating them into the city overall master plans. Special
units, commissions or agencies dealing with cultural heritage conservation should be set up
within the existing local organizational and governance structures with full legislative,
administrative and financial supports. Whilst conservation acts and enactments have been
established, their enforcements have somewhat dwindled. The demolition of the historic
Metropole Hotel (built in 1900) in Georgetown, Penang in 1993 was a classic example of the
inadequacy of the Malaysian laws to protect heritage buildings. [26] Despite the adoption of
design guidelines, controversies still surround building heights and plot ratios allowances in
the conservation zones. Such situation has caused substantial stagnations in investment flows
in the inner city areas, affecting tourism promotion, infrastructure development and job
generation. [27]

At a global level, cases of illicit traffic and looting of cultural heritage have also increased
significantly all over the world. Some of the contributing factors include the globalization of the
marketplace, including the arts; and rapid tourism growth, Concerted efforts are much needed
to protect the cultural heritage resources to put an end to illegal trade of cultural artifacts in
the Southeast Asia region.

6.6 Expectations of the New Tourists

Visitations to places of historical significance have gained much importance in the trend of
„new tourists„ worldwide. Buildings, sites and items of significant historical background intrigue
these tourists. Such emerging trend has enhanced the inherent value of historic buildings,
prompting the authorities to upkeep their heritage assets. Today„s new tourists assume a
different approach in their traveling behavior. Their expectations differ from those traveling
solely for leisure. They demand much more than visiting a place for the sake of visiting.
Rather than observing cultures confined within galleries, these tourists prefer living and
experiencing the local cultures and indulging in the sense of the place with the local

This new dimension in the heritage tourist segment requires more an explicit display and
demonstration of the local cultures and festivities on the city streets. However, it is necessary
to develop a good understanding of the promise of cultural heritage tourism as well as its
limitations, at the brink of growing threats posed by excessive mass tourism flows. As tourism
is mainly a profit-generating industry, it is imperative that the governments as policy makers
reconcile the quantitative measures with the aim of preserving the integrity of historical
ensembles and sites.

6.7 Lack of Public Awareness

International models for developing sustainable approaches to safeguard heritage have shown
that cultural heritage conservation is related to a number of factors. One key factor is the level
of public knowledge, awareness and commitment to heritage.

In order to heighten public awareness, programmes and projects on awareness-building and
heritage appreciation should be set up at the local level to inculcate strong heritage values
amongst the community. Cultural heritage properties, particularly old buildings and others of
architectural value, should be revitalized and revive to ensure that the buildings are
economically viable and enhance the city„s character. The public sector, NGOs and citizens
groups play an instrumental role in pioneering conservation-related initiatives, generating
ideas, fostering civic pride, as well as assisting in financial investments. All stakeholders
should learn to deal with conflicts and to explore the creative use of partnerships to share
knowledge, as well as risks, in cultural heritage tourism development.

City leadership in particular needs to rally full grassroots support to enhance public
participation and heritage awareness. The ethic of participation makes it imperative for the
community to be involved in cultural heritage conservation as a key ingredient of local
development. Necessary mechanisms and process of heritage conservation should be
developed and propagated so that cultural heritage properties may be transmitted to the
future generations boasting full authentic quality.

6.8 Environmental Degradation

Heritage cities throughout the world are not only centers of civilization, but also main tourist
destinations. Physical and socio-economic transformations that occur in the historic cities often
lead to substantial environmental concerns. Man-induced factors in most urbanizing cities have
resulted in environmental degradations including deforestation, soil erosion, land reclamation,
traffic congestion, and water and air-borne chemical pollutants from automobiles and factory
emissions. Heritage buildings in Georgetown, for instance have been cautioned against the
risks of heavy traffic vibrations and air pollution. High concentrations of salt deposits and
acute problems of rising damp diagnosed in heritage buildings in Georgetown have also raised
a major concern regarding the British architectural legacy by the sea.

Whilst Southeast Asia is a region of great antiquity and treasures of the past, it has been
unfortunate to observe fluctuating interests in cultural heritage protection. [28] The social and
cultural environments as well all material and non-material remnants of our history should all
be enlisted as environmental priorities, to be protected along side the natural environment.
Southeast Asian nations should realize the approach of smart partnerships and strategic
alliances between the public and private sectors, NGOs and the community towards this new
approach in environmental protection. The governments should introduce effective
environmental legislations that propagate good environmental values amongst the community.

It is clear from the discussion that Southeast Asian countries are faced with a multitude of
issues and challenges in protecting their cultural heritage to posterity. All conservation
stakeholders need to work together to achieve sustainable planning and management of
cultural heritage, including for tourism ventures. Leaderships of these countries need to
reaffirm their stand to materialize the fruits of the ASEAN Declarations (2001) to ensure that
their cultural properties are handed over to the next generation in their authentic forms.

VII. Conclusions

The rich cultural heritage of Southeast Asia has been recognized as an asset that attracts
visitors and generates income for this region Revitalization of heritage structures and
precincts, and the development of cultural heritage tourism initiatives have fostered strong
community ownership and helped ensure the values of cultural heritage. Innovative
interpretations of historic sites, public art programmes and special cultural events are the
essential ingredients of a successful agenda for cultural heritage tourism. Nonetheless,
planning and management of cultural heritage tourism in Southeast Asia have met with
several shortcomings. The major challenge has been to work effectively with all stakeholders
in cultural heritage to understand the needs and constraints of the host communities, whilst at
the same time upholding the principles of conserving cultural heritage.

The cultural heritage tourism segment in Southeast Asia reflects the need for strong
government commitment and leadership to enforce effective regulations to protect cultural
heritage from development threats. Several initiatives have been employed including fairs,
exhibitions, seminars and workshops to gather more public awareness on the importance of
cultural heritage conservation for tourism. The ASEAN symbol of solidarity should be realized
through the establishment of smart partnerships for the transfer of know-how, technology and
experience in managing the vibrant cultural heritage cities. Community participation at various
levels would serve well in preserving the cultural fabric that shape and mould the notable
heritage milieu of the Southeast Asian cities. In time, it is hoped that the intrinsic meanings
and values of cultural heritage conservation would transcend all stakeholders, tourists, the
NGOs, local communities as well as the younger generations.

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